Bomb squad closes Palo Alto street, dismantles mortar

World War II shell found in Adobe Meadow garage by homeowner

Discovery of a World War II-era Japanese mortar forced the closure of part of Grove Avenue in Palo Alto Monday morning (Oct. 3).

Hal Knowlton, 87, found the 3-inch-diameter shell while cleaning his garage. He took the mortar outside and set it on the planter box, then returned to his home to call police, he said.

"I thought it'd just be boom-boom -- they would just take it away. But the policewoman said, 'Oh, this is going to be a production,'" Knowlton said.

Police closed off the 3800 block of Grove and notified nearby residents of the quiet street they might have to evacuate. The Santa Clara County Sheriff's bomb squad arrived and dismantled the mortar, which Knowlton estimated was about 9 to 10 inches long.

Palo Alto police Officer Marianna Villaescusa said the mortar still contained some powder but it was determined to be inert.

Knowlton said he and his wife have lived in the house since 1966. He served in the Navy and was assigned to the Pacific on Gen. Douglas MacArthur's command ship. It was the seventh ship to arrive in Tokyo after the war, he said.

"I have no idea of how it got there. I never envisioned this," he said, as neighbors teased him about causing a neighborhood ruckus. "There has not been so much excitement since our neighbor fell out of the persimmon tree and he wouldn't get into the ambulance," he said.

We can't do it without you.
Support local journalism.


Like this comment
Posted by What's-A-WWII-Mortar-Shell-Worth?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 3, 2011 at 2:40 pm

> "I have no idea of how it got there

Hmmm .. WWII-era mortar shell, WWII-era home owner who served in Japan .. if this fellow didn't bring this bit of history home to the US .. who else living in that house might have?

Like this comment
Posted by Gunn Mom
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 3, 2011 at 2:54 pm

I never know which bin to use for old war relics: green yard waste ( if dug up in the yard), blue recycling (for metal recycling) or black garbage!

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 3, 2011 at 3:12 pm

Once I learned that people were safe, this story made me laugh. It reminded me of the PA I knew as a, not during WWII, but w/that smaller town sensibility that, aside from its subject, is in this story. Loved his quote about the persimmon tree :-)

Like this comment
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 3, 2011 at 10:26 pm

This was a great story!

You have to wonder where that mortar shell came from. Is it possible that this veteran didn't know he had it in his WWII Navy knapsack and just now got around to cleaning it out? Now, he bought the home in 1966, so perhaps the previous owner was a vet as well?

But, I agree that the quote about the man falling out of the Persimmon tree was very, very funny!

Like this comment
Posted by Newton
a resident of University South
on Oct 4, 2011 at 10:55 am

Fall down from persimmon tree go boom

Like this comment
Posted by Mayfield Child
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 4, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Just learned something interesting from one of the park rangers up at Foothill Park~
During the WW1, there was live ammo that was placed around in Foothills park..(it was for training exercises for the dog sniffing dogs to locate~).
Even as current as a few years ago there has been some shells found in the park. The original papers that showed where shells (etc.) were placed was "destroyed" and some were left behind.......................

Like this comment
Posted by Lynda
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 4, 2011 at 6:49 pm

Sue Dremann did a great job with this story.

Like this comment
Posted by YSK
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 4, 2011 at 10:16 pm

Cute story

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Be the first to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

Rose International Market reopening soon in Mountain View
By Elena Kadvany | 11 comments | 5,032 views

Eyes and the End of Life: Why Spend Time With the Dying?
By Aldis Petriceks | 2 comments | 1,782 views

The HSR Decision
By Steve Levy | 7 comments | 1,100 views

We need a new garage downtown Palo Alto -- forget about being politically correct
By Diana Diamond | 5 comments | 914 views

Know Before You Buy: Understanding Senior Living Facility Agreements
By Max Greenberg | 0 comments | 279 views


Short story writers wanted!

The 33rd Annual Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest is now accepting entries for Adult, Young Adult (15-17) and Teen (12-14) categories. Send us your short story (2,500 words or less) and entry form by March 29. First, Second and Third Place prizes awarded in each category.

Contest Details